While there's not a whole lot new visually in Android Oreo, there's plenty that will help improve it in very important ways. Want to know when Android Oreo is coming to your phone?
What is Android Oreo?
Android Oreo is the next major update to the Android operating system. It follows the release of Android Nougat from 2016.
Android Oreo is also labelled Android 8.0. After all, Android Marshmallow got the numerical designation Android 6.0 and Android Nougat got Android 7.0-7.1.
However, older versions of Android, such as Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, and KitKat, were all labelled 4.x updates.
Note that all versions of Android have a 'dessert' theme; Oreo marks the second time Google has partnered with a particular brand after the earlier KitKat tie-up.
What are the key Android Oreo features?
The key message from Google is that this update is all about "Fluid Experiences" and "Vitals". That essentially means things overlap, and flow together better on screen, and that it's far more efficient than Nougat.
The first Android N developer preview from 2016 had a picture-in-picture mode, like you'd see in Apple's iPad, but it was for Android TV.
This feature is widely available in Google Oreo for smartphones as a baked in feature. So you can continue watching a video while, for instance, answering a chat in another app.
Launching it is as simple as pressing the home button while a video is playing. The video then becomes a small window on the home screen and you can move it around the screen so that it's not in the way of what you're doing. Then continue doing whatever else you need to be doing. When you're finished, swipe it away, off the screen.
Google billed Notification Dots as "a new for app developers to indicate that there's activity in their app". On the surface, it looks similar to the app badges we've seen on the iPhone's operating system for years. It's essentially a little dot that appears on the app icons when there's a notification.
To interact with it, you can long-press on the app icon and a pop-up bubble appears showing the notification, right above where the app icon is on the screen. That means - while you still can - you don't have to drop down the notification shade from the top of the screen to see your alerts.
And, thankfully, the dots disappear as soon as you dismiss the notifications from the drop-down shade.
Autofill with Google
We use Autofill every day in the Chrome browser, and now Google is bringing a system-wide iteration to Android. If you've ever told Google Chrome to save details in browser, you'll be able to use that information to automatically fill in fields in Android Oreo.
As an example, you can log in to the Twitter account on your phone using the suggested account name and password that Google remembered from your Chrome browsing. It will work for most applications, presuming you opt-in to the feature.
Smart Text Selection
Smart Text Selection is another new feature that's designed to make daily interactions with your phone less tedious. For instance, if an email contains the name of a restaurant or cafe with more than one word, you can double tap any of the words, and it'll select the whole name.
More importantly, it can detect entire addresses; so double tapping any part of an address will automatically select the entire thing. What's more, when it is selected, the system knows it's an address and offers you the option to navigate there using Maps, along with the usual cut, copy and format options. It's the same for phone numbers or email addresses, automatically giving you the relevant functions for those.
Google Play Protect
Google has decided with Android Oreo that it wants to make its efforts to keep your phone secure more visible. In the apps and games screen, a small card appears to let you know that it's scanning all your apps to make sure they don't contain anything harmful.
With Android Oreo, Google has done some serious work on the backend to improve speed. That means, booting up your phone will take far less time than it does currently. With the Pixel, Google claims it boots up more than twice as fast. It will also mean that apps load faster and smoother by default, without any work needed by the developers.
To improve the battery life of Android devices, Google plans to reduce the background activity of apps in Android Oreo. Android can now limit how apps function in the background, thus improving a user's battery life and the device's interactive performance.
Google added a "reliable, predictable model" for "arrow" and "tab" navigation that helps both developers and users, the company said.
Android Oreo supports Bluetooth audio codecs like the LDAC codec. There's also a new "Wi-Fi Aware", which was previously known as Neighbor Awareness Networking. On supported devices, apps and nearby devices can communicate over Wi-Fi without an internet access point.
Support for wider colour gamuts
Android Oreo will make it possible for app developers to take advantage of support for a wide-colour gamut displays. There's a growing trend for improving displays by making them HDR compatible (both on Android TV, but also in smartphones and tablets). A large component of HDR is supporting wider colour gamuts, which goes hand-in-hand with this aspect of Android Oreo. Google says it's aimed at imaging apps, however, with support for profiles like AdobeRGB, Pro Photo RGB or DCI-P3 to get the most out of the display.
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